ECONOMY

Hotelier-turned-winemaker aims to combine comfort with palate pleasure while promoting the best Nemea wines

Giorgos Kokotos started as a hotel constructor and operator in Rhodes and Crete in the 1960s, but is now building a novel winery complex, with accommodation facilities for visitors who wish to acquaint themselves with the entire process of winemaking. «I used to like designing and building hotels. However, creativity stops when you finish construction and then begins the issue of operation and management, which did not suit me. By contrast, the exciting trip of creativity in winemaking goes on after construction of the winery is completed,» he says. In the late 1970s, Kokotos bought a 10-acre area in Stamata, north of Athens, which has since grown to 17.5 acres and is now known as the Kokotos Estate, producing 14 brands of bottled wine, some of which have won international awards. He gradually gave up tourism altogether, shedding the last of his hotel holdings in 1997. The winery he is now building belongs to Salasco, a company he has set up jointly with Piraeus Bank Chairman Michalis Sallas, and is in a 20-acre area in Koutsi, Nemea, the famous wine-producing district near Corinth, at an altitude of 550 meters. From the hilltop where the estate is situated, one can see the Gulf of Corinth to the right and the Argolic Gulf to the left. He projects completion by June of five luxury, three-room suites, and a conference center with a capacity of up to 400 people. The complex will include an exhibition area and an upmarket restaurant which will be open at weekends. A second phase of the investment program is projected to begin early next year and foresees the construction of 27 bungalows with a swimming pool and a small winetasting facility. The broader overall plan, which includes the purchase of a 125-acre vine-growing area in the vicinity, is estimated to cost 6 million euros. Kokotos’s goal is to promote what he considers the excellent characteristics of the Agiorgeitiko wine variety of Nemea. Production will begin this year and is projected to reach 1,200 tons, a significant part of which will be exported. He says he got the idea of the winery-cum-accommodation complex from France, where they are common. «Michalis Sallas – who has been a longstanding friend – and I wanted to realize this idea in Greece. We offer a new type of holiday which also helps promote the quality characteristics of Greek tourism,» says Kokotos. His estate in Stamata, meanwhile, besides producing a number of well-known international varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc, has developed a number of other activities: visits by schools, seminars on viticulture and winemaking, lectures, gourmet meals, book presentations and art exhibitions. The 14 labels it markets include three collectors’ series and Semeli, Kokotos Estate, Thyoni and Amaryllis. The first distinction came in 1985 in Bordeaux, where Semeli White 1984 won the bronze medal; others followed, culminating in the Laureat in the same exhibition in 1995 for Chateau Semeli 1992.